Big Band conducted by Lawrence ‘Butch’ Morris
When I was very young and impressionable, I shook hands with Murray and told him he was the ‘best saxophone player in the world’! A spur of the moment decision, rather than a considered judgment, but the gig I had just witnessed was pretty overwhelming. Murray is the heir of Albert Ayler and Eric Dolphy; there is an obvious Albert influence, but like Dolphy, his choice of notes is often so perverse and utterly surreal that you would have a job explaining to the uninitiated why he not simply playing outrageously badly, except to point out that his choice of ‘wrong’ notes is often extremely technically challenging. Murray does have a tendency to go too far and sound silly, but on this album the surrealism comes off perfectly, with his bizarre but somehow majestic tenor offset by an almost completely off-the-rails big band. The highlights are the first two tracks: Murray’s chaotic orchestration of Paul Gonzalves’ legendary twenty-seven chorus tenor solo from the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, complete with amazing solos by Joel A. Brandon (the ‘Master Whistler’), and a romantic and rhapsodic ‘Lester’, which brings to mind ‘Albert’ more than anything else.